“Mom, what was your dad like?” I really didn’t know how to answer that question when my daughter asked me. Do I tell her that my father was a monster that used to punch my mother in the face in front of me? Do I tell her about the time he beat our puppy to death (literally) because he peed in the house. Or what about the time he came up to my school and assaulted my 3rd grade teacher for advising my mother to leave him after he saw her with bruises. Which story should I share? I chose not to tell her any of it. She is not ready. Instead I told her that my dad was not a very nice man and that we grew up without him.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically.? – ncadv.org
The way domestic violence affects children is devastating. According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.
I was 10 years old when my mother left my father after years of brutality. For many years after, I had nightmares about him. The after effects of the circumstances caused me to have a profound distrust and lack of respect for the male species. I was raised by many strong women: Moms, Aunts and Grandmothers. Men were of little to no use to me and most of the time I let them know that I didn’t need them because I was independent. I made it my life’s mission to help children of domestic abuse. I studied Social Work in college and dedicated much of my early 20’s volunteering at children’s shelters and working with battered women. But I still hadn’t dealt with my own issues. I am a child of Domestic Violence. When my future husband came along the first time, I wasn’t ready. I was bitter, distrustful and resentful of his efforts to make a future with me. I rejected him and all that he had to offer. Eventually he gave up and moved on or so I thought. An entire decade and 2 kids later he came back into my life and this time I was ready to receive him.
During those years that he wasn’t in my life I became this super human woman with 2 kids, 2 jobs, in school, an AVID partier and with endless volunteer responsibilities. I chose to hide from what was killing me on the inside by keeping myself busy. I pretended that I didn’t need a man, when really I was scared of what might happen if I entered into a serious relationship with one. When my future husband came back after years of me rejecting him, it forced me to deal with the reasons I had pushed him away in the first place. The real reason wasn’t independence it was fear. I was scared. I had no examples of how men should treat women. I only knew what I witnessed.
If you think that kids are not affected by domestic violence or that they will somehow forget because they are too little, think again. I remember as far back as 4 years old and my memories are not pleasant ones. If you and your children are in this situation, I suggest that you seek help now before it’s too late. If your kids have witnessed abuse in the home, consult with outside resources. Even if they appear to not be affected, trust me they are. The post trauma can last well into adulthood. Abuse can be more than just physical as stated above. Take action now to protect the emotional well being of your family. I am so glad that my husband was patient with me and allowed me to work through my own issues with this before we got married. I am thankful that God, my strength and my husband’s strength and love saw me through and that we can now provide a non violent home for our children.
IF YOU NEED HELP, DIAL THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
BMWK: Did you witness domestic violence as a child?